The history of Ketchikan is closely tied to fishing. As I mentioned last week, the Kadjuck Tlingits made summer fishing camps along the coast of this island at the Tongass Narrows. But it was in 1883 that a salmon saltery (fish packaging operation) was established. This saltery, started by Mike Martin, was the first such business in place.
In 1885, Loring cannery opened its doors; in 1887, the Tongass Packing Company built its cannery; other immigrants began to open businesses, and in 1900, on August the 25th, the City of Ketchikan was incorporated with a population of 459 residents.
Southeast Alaska is one of the great breeding grounds for all species of the Pacific Salmon. There are about 1,100 islands that make up the Alexander Archipelago, which themselves have steep inland ranges and streams (aided by the about 150 inches of rainfall each year). All these factors contribute to the returning salmon runs, some with upwards of one million fish!
During the mid-to-late summer, salmon can be seen running over the falls and fish ladder at Creek Street, right through Downtown Ketchikan.
Well, I’m here. I might as well post some information that I’ve found interesting.
The City of Ketchikan, AK sits on Revillagigedo Island, which is about 89 km (50 mi) long from north to south and 48 km (35 mi) wide from east to west, making it the12th largest island in the United Statesand the167th largest island in the world.
The island is separated from the Alaska mainland to the east by Behm Canal, from Prince of Wales Island to the west by the Clarence Strait, and from Annette Island to the south by Revillagigedo Channel and Nichols Passage.¹
There are two cities on the Island, Ketchikan and Saxman. The name Ketchikan was chosen as the creek which flows through town is Ketchikan Creek. It was named for Kitsch, a Tlingit native who claimed the section of creek for fishing. Kitsch-hen was anglicized to Ketchikan, as the Tlingit didn’t have a formal written language. Hen translates to creek, and Kitsch to “the thundering wings of an eagle”.² Aptly, bald eagles fly and nest along the coast up and down the Southwestern shore.
The other city, Saxman, is famous for its totem poles. It has the largest collection of standing poles in the world, which is impressive as the Saxman is only one square mile.³ Many of Saxman’s totems were apparently stolen in the late 1800s during the Harriman Expedition, which I’m currently researching.